James J. Leos also recently participated in the institute’s LGBT Oral History Project, which records the stories of LGBT residents of Southern Arizona. Excerpts from the video are available on the institute's website.
University of Arizona alumnus James J. Leos recently hand-delivered a check for $10,000 to Susan Stryker – the first quarterly installment of the $200,000 he has pledged to the Institute for LGBT Studies over the next five years.
Leos also made gifts of other assets, bringing the total value of his present support for the institute to $1 million. In 2010, Leos helped make the largest contribution – $100,000 in the form of a life insurance policy – in the history of the institute, which led to others providing donations.
Also, Leos has designated a trust at the UA Foundation on behalf of the institute. While the exact value of the trust likely will change over the course of Leos’ lifetime, it is currently valued at several million dollars, said Stryker, director of the UA institute.
Leos has made other bequests to benefit The University of Arizona Cancer Center and the UA surgery department, also valued in the millions of dollars.
"Jim’s generosity has the potential to transform not just our institute, but the field of LGBT studies throughout the academy,” Stryker said. "A gift of this size in this area of study is practically unheard of. To say that I’m deeply thankful would be a tremendous understatement.”
Also, the first James J. Leos Symposium, in honor of his ongoing contribution to the institute, is slated to be held in March 2013.
Leos, a successful Tucson businessman and philanthropist, is an Arizona native whose own experiences of homophobia growing up in a small town prompted him to support research in LGBT studies at the UA. He was a member of the first youth support group at Wingspan, Tucson's community resource for LGBT individuals and their allies.
“I want to make a difference so that kids growing up today won’t have to experience some of the things I experienced. Education plays a big part in fostering a climate of change. I want to help my alma mater play a leading role in advancing our understanding of the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Leos said.
Stryker noted that his gift should catapult the UA Institute for LGBT Studies – which began as an informal faculty committee in 1993 and became a formal research institute in 2006 – into the front ranks of the field.
The institute's mission is to promote LGBT-oriented research, curriculum development and public programing. Also, the institute and its affiliate members conduct research around issues such as immigration, gender, race, adolescence, socioeconomics, oral histories, health, politics and feminism, all within the context of sexuality and sexual orientation.
Stryker added that developing additional financial resources in the near term will enable the institute to increase its capacity and make use of Leos’ eventual bequest in a thoughtful, planned way. Leos has agreed to take a leadership role in helping the institute meet its goal of raising more than $2 million over the next seven years.
In appreciation of Leos’ financial support, the institute will host an annual James J. Leos Symposium, beginning in the current fiscal year.
“There are only a few comparable research institutes in the entire country,” Stryker said, “and thanks to Jim’s support, we’re now better funded than the vast majority of them."